Part I - Our Lost Treasure / Chapter 1 - Sitting There All Peaceful and Quiet
Some time ago an elderly lady complained to me that she could no longer pray. ‘Father,’ she said, ‘I can’t pray like I used to. I come here to church after my shopping and sit here all peaceful and quiet.
But,’ she sighed, ‘I can’t pray like I used to.’
I tried to suggest that perhaps sitting there all peaceful and quiet was prayer. Maybe it was a gift God was offering her at this stage of her life. But she was not convinced. Prayer for her meant keeping her mind on the words, battling with distractions, concentrating. Sitting there all peaceful and quiet would have seemed to her like laziness and failure.
What my parishioner was discovering, in fact, was one of God’s loveliest gifts, the purest form of prayer. She rejected it because it was not what she had been taught. And she is not alone. Many people who come to the retreat house where I live, to attend Sunday or daily Mass, or in search of peace and quiet or guidance, share her anxiety about praying.
Many of us will remember being taught that prayer is a lifting of our minds and hearts to God. This teaching can lay a heavy burden on us. We feel that we must make an effort to speak to God, to praise him, to give thanks, to ask for help. We normally use words, thoughts and images, and feel we have to keep our minds fixed on what we are saying.
But there are times when we cannot find the words, or when the well-known prayers which usually inspire and comfort us strike no chord in our hearts. Or we may be singing God’s praises while our hearts are heavy, or empty. And our hearts become heavier because our feelings do not match the words.
We are perhaps tired of words, anyway. Tired of asking God in words that have no life in them. Tired of thinking about God. Tired of being talked to about God. Tired of saying prayers that may be beautiful in themselves but are not bringing God closer to us.
Then, perhaps it is best to simplify our prayers and follow the age old advice, to go from many words to few words, from few words to one word, and from one word into silence. Sometimes when we pray, our words, any words, can be barriers. They come between us and God. The deepest communion with God comes through silence. There is a form of prayer where we do nothing, where we sit in stillness and silence, not straining or striving. We abandon all words and reflection and we rest. We put ourselves in God’s hands and wait in silence, to let God’s Spirit pray in us. Sitting there all peaceful and quiet, like the elderly lady in church, is what this kind of prayer is all about.
An extract from Finding Your Hidden Treasure
© 2010 Benignus O’Rourke OSA
Published by Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd
© Photo: Ian Wilson OSA
Get the book: www.theaugustinians.org
Take a moment to treasure up all these things and ponder them in your heart (cf Luke 2,19)
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. Col 4:6